The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, March 28, 1979, involved the loss-of-coolant, the melting of half its fuel, a hydrogen explosion in the “containment” building,(i) the uncontrolled, frightening buildup of explosive hydrogen in the reactor vessel, the venting of radioactive gases, and the dumping of contaminated water into a major source public drinking water. The accident caused such a scare that it ended the expansion of nuclear power in the US. Today, reactor builds can’t keep up with closures.
Yet the human health consequences of TMI aren’t well known, and official cover-ups, propaganda and ignorance of radiation-induced illnesses have led to trivialization of the disaster. As Gar Smith notes in his 2012 book Nuclear Roulette, public officials issued one false statement after another for days, like: there were no radiation releases; radiation releases were “controlled”; radiation releases were “insignificant”; there was no melting of the reactor fuel; there was never any danger of an explosion; there was no need to evacuate close communities. In fact, TMI’s failed containment released a plume of radiation “about 100 times more significant than the initial estimates offered” by the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — which still doesn’t know how much radiation was released or where it went.
David Lochbaum of the Union of Concern Scientists estimates between 40 million curies and 100 million curies escaped during the accident. President Carter’s Kemeny Commission estimated about 15 million curies of radioactive gas was vented from the containment building, including 43,000 curies of krypton-85(ii) — which stays in the environment for 100 years — and 15-to-24 curies of radioactive iodine-131.(iii) (A curie is a huge amount of radiation — 37 billion disintegrations per second.) The NRC later admitted to several “deliberate but uncontrolled releases” of the cancer-causing gases. Estimates of these airborne releases are mere guesses, because half of the outside radiation monitors were not working, and of those that worked, a large number of them went off-scale.(iv)
Approximately 400,000 gallons of highly radioactive cooling water leaked from the reactor into “containment” areas. This water was secretly dumped into the Susquehanna River, a source of drinking water for nearby communities.(v) Later, about 2.3 million gallons of radioactively contaminated cooling water were allowed to be “evaporated” into the atmosphere.(vi)
On the third day of the venting and dumping, half the population within 15 miles — 144,000 people — fled the area. By this time the bulk of the airborne radiation gusher had already been spewed and was drifting on the wind. Yet the Kemeny Commission ignored all data on the effects of wind-borne radiation, even though the wind blew 6-to-9 mph toward upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.(vii)
“Nobody died at Three Mile Island” — unless you count babies
In 1980, Pennsylvania State Health Department authorities reported a sharp rise in hypothyroidism in newborn infants in the three counties downwind from the reactor. Late in 1979, four times as many infants as normal were born with the disease. The NRC said the increase was unrelated to radiation released by TMI.(viii) Upwind incidence of the disease had dropped to below the national average.
Eric Epstein, Chair of Three Mile Island Alert had noted that in March 1982, the American Journal of Public Health reported, “During the first two quarters of 1978, the [newborn] mortality rate within a 10 mile radius of Three Mile Island was 8.6 and 7.6 per 1,000 live births, respectively. During the first quarter of 1979, following the startup of accident-prone Unit 2, the rate jumped to 17.2; it increased to 19.3 in the quarter following the accident at TMI, and returned to 7.8 and 9.3, respectively, in the last two quarters of 1979.” (Dr. Gordon MacLeod, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health.)
A June 1991, Columbia University Health Study’s findings (Susser-Hatch) were published in the American Journal of Public Health. The data actually shows more than a doubling of observed cancers in areas near the partial meltdown, including lymphoma, leukemia, colon and the hormonal category of breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate, and testis. For leukemia and lung cancers in the six-to-12 kilometer distance from TMI, the number of observed cases was almost four times greater. In the zero-to-six kilometer range, colon cancer was 4 times greater. The study found “a statistically significant relationship between incidence rates after the accident and residential proximity to the plant.”
In the county where TMI is located, infant mortality (deaths of kids under one) soared 53.7% in the first month after the accident; the rate rose 27% in the first year after the accident. As originally published, the federal government’s own Monthly Vital Statistics Report shows a statistically significant rise in infant and over-all mortality rates shortly after the accident.
Studying 10 counties closest to TMI, Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, in their 1990 book Deadly Deceit, found that childhood cancers, other infant diseases, and deaths from birth defects were 15% to 35% higher than before the accident, and those from breast cancer 7% higher. These increases far exceeded those elsewhere in Pennsylvania.(ix) Gould suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 excess deaths occurred after the TMI accident.
Joseph Mangano studied the three counties closest to TMI — Daupin, Lancaster, and York. He found that between 1980 and 1984, “death rates in these three counties were considerably higher than 1970-74 (before the reactor opened) for leukemia, female breast cancer, thyroid and bone and joint cancers.” Cancer deaths among kids fewer than 10 years of age (between 1980 and 1984) nearly doubled compared to the national rate.
The death and disease associated with TMI’s radiation releases were foretold by Roger Mattson, a Director of the Systems Safety Division at the NRC at the time. Mattson told the NRC’s members during the accident: “I’m not sure why you are not moving people. I don’t know what we are protecting at this point.”(x)
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly.
1. Daniel Ford, Three Mile Island, Viking Press, 1982, p. 237-238
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: <http://www.nrc.gov/POA/gmo/tip/tip10.htm>
3. John May, The Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age, Pantheon, 1989, p. 82
4. Dr. John Beyea, study for the National Audubon Society, 1984, in John May, above, pp. 220-221
5. Allen Hedge, Cornell University, “Systems Thinking,” August 2007, <ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA325/pdfs/systems.pdf> Stephen Pople, Oxford, Explaining Physics, GCSE Edition, Sec. 8, Electrons and Atoms, 1990, p. 323; and Report of the President’s Commission on the Accident at TMI, October 30, 1979
6. The Washington Post, March 28, 1989
7. Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-Up, New York, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990, p. 59
8. Boston Globe, February 23, 1980
9. Joseph Mangano, Low-Level Radiation and Immune System Damage: An Atomic Era Legacy, Lewis Publishers, New York, 1999, p. 65
10. Ford, Three Mile Island, p. 234
Sometimes it really pays to be persistent.
That’s what Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth found out this week when the organization achieved something truly remarkable. It succeeded in getting a commitment from the largest association of architects in the U.S. to debate and vote on a resolution supporting an investigation into the destruction of World Trade Center Building 7 on Sept. 11, 2001.
The vote will take place at the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects, May 14-16, in Atlanta, GA. (If you’re not sure how much of a big deal this convention is, the keynote speaker is former president Bill Clinton.)
After several failed attempts to get the AIA to even consider looking into Building 7, AE tried a different approach in early 2015. Instead of simply appealing to the AIA leadership, they used the organization’s own rules to create a resolution that, pending approval by the AIA resolution committee, would come to the floor of the convention where it would be debated and voted on by delegates.
That approval came this week. The committee made only minor changes to the resolution so that it conformed to AIA style. The substance remained unchanged.
“We’re ecstatic about this,” says AE9/11Truth founder Richard Gage, who will be attending the convention with a team from the organization.
For any resolution to be considered by convention delegates, it must be sponsored by the AIA’s board of directors or strategic council; a regional, state or local AIA chapter; or 50 AIA members. In this case, the sponsor was AE board member Dan Barnum, who holds the prestigious title of Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Another 54 AIA members are listed as co-sponsors – all of whom are signatories of the AE9/11Truth petition.
WHAT THEY’LL VOTE ON
Here is the text of the resolution that was just approved by the AIA resolution committee:
WHEREAS, under the AIA Public Policies and Position Statements, it is the responsibility of architects to design a resilient environment that can more successfully adapt to natural conditions and that can more readily absorb and recover from adverse events; and
WHEREAS, architects and others involved in the design and construction of buildings depend upon the information obtained from investigations into building failures to inform the development of model building codes; and
WHEREAS, on September 11, 2001, 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story high-rise building, suffered a complete collapse; and
WHEREAS, on November 20, 2008, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the final report of its three-year investigation into the complete collapse of 7 World Trade Center, which concluded that fires, an unprecedented cause of failure for a modern high-rise building, were the primary cause of failure; and
WHEREAS, the cause of failure identified by the NIST investigation would mean that hundreds of high-rise buildings in the United States are susceptible to similar failure from fire; and
WHEREAS, thousands of members of the architecture and engineering professions, including the 55 sponsors of this resolution, believe the NIST investigation did not adhere to the principles of the scientific method and, as a result, the conclusions of the NIST investigation are fatally flawed.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the AIA Board of Directors shall adopt a Position Statement, to be published in the AIA Directory of Public Policies and Position Statements, stating:
- The AIA’s belief that incidents involving the catastrophic failure of buildings and other structures must be investigated using the highest standards of science-based investigation and analysis in order to provide accurate and meaningful information in the development of model building codes;
- The AIA’s recognition that many members of the architecture profession believe the NIST investigation into the complete collapse of 7 World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, did not adhere to the principles of the scientific method and, as a result, the conclusions of the NIST investigation are fatally flawed;
- The AIA’s belief that this perspective merits further study; and
- The AIA’s support for a new investigation into the complete collapse of 7 World Trade Center.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that it is advised that this Position Statement be incorporated as Position Statement #3 under the Construction Industry Regulation Public Policy. The recommended language of this Position Statement is as follows:
- World Trade Center 7
The AIA believes that incidents involving the catastrophic failure of buildings and other structures must be investigated using the highest standards of science-based investigation and analysis in order to provide accurate and meaningful information in the development of model building codes. In adherence to the scientific method, investigations should:
- Consider all available data;
- Consider hypotheses that most readily explain the available data;
- Test those hypotheses and analyze the results without bias; and
- Provide for external review and replication by making all data available.
The AIA recognizes that many members of the architecture profession believe the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation into the complete collapse of 7 World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, did not adhere to these principles and, as a result, the conclusions of the NIST investigation are fatally flawed. The AIA believes this perspective merits further study and supports a new investigation into the complete collapse of 7 World Trade Center.
AE9/11Truth approached the AIA in both 2013 and 2014 about supporting a new investigation but was turned down with the AIA claiming that this goes beyond their purview. Shortly before the 2014 convention, that position appeared to soften somewhat as then AIA president Helene Combs Dreiling formed a committee to examine the evidence provided by AE9/11Truth. (Interestingly, Combs Dreiling has just now succeeded AE9/11Truth petition signatory John Braymer as CEO of the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.)
AE got the news in January that the AIA had rejected their request because it fully supports the official story that office fires alone were sufficient to account for Building 7’s destruction.
Now it will be up to AIA delegates to debate this carefully crafted and scientifically sound resolution – which puts the focus on the integrity of buildings and not on conspiracies. While it will still be an uphill battle, just bringing it to the floor –j to be deliberated on by this major professional association is a significant accomplishment.
If the AIA delegates have the courage to vote for this resolution, then the 9/11 Truth Movement will have made a mainstream breakthrough that could seriously change things.
A long shot? Perhaps. But watching this play out is going to be very interesting.
This article examines and documents the Houla massacre of May 2012, a terrible incident in the Syrian Crisis which came closest to attracting UN intervention. The analysis here seeks to include all relevant evidence, both from witnesses and on the UN processes. A series of appalling civilian massacres during the conflict helped set the tone for another round of ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘responsibility to protect’ debates. The killings at Houla deserve close attention. However, because of NATO’s abuse of the ‘no fly zone’ authorisation for Libya and the wider geo-politics of Syria, Russia and China would not allow a similar UN Security Council authorisation of force. Big power intervention therefore remained indirect, through proxy militias. While the Syrian army attacked those militias and many Islamist groups carried out public executions, attempts to blame the Syrian Army for attacks on civilians remained hotly contested.
The context to this was two very different narratives. Western propaganda attacked Syrian President Bashar al Assad, claiming that he, through the Syrian Arab Army, was repeatedly ‘killing his own people’. From the Syrian side this was always a proxy war against Syria, with NATO and allied Gulf monarchies backing sectarian terrorist gangs, with the aim of ‘regime change’. The western line maintained that a peaceful protest movement, after many months of ‘regime brutality’, transformed into a secular (later ‘moderate Islamist’) ‘revolution’. The western popular media reinforced this line, with calls to arm the ‘civilian protestors’. One such article claimed ‘We will pay a high price if we do not arm Syria’s rebels’ (Slaughter 2012). In the first few months of western reports there is very little admission of an armed insurrection, except by suggested ‘civilian self-defence’ measures.
The Syrian Government, on the other hand, said the political reform movement and the sectarian Islamist attacks were quite distinct, the latter taking cover under the former. Armed sniping attacks on police and civilians began in March 2011. In fact, arms shipments were intercepted on the Syria-Iraq border a week before the first violence broke out (Reuters 2011) and former Saudi military official Anwar Al-Eshki would later confirm to the BBC that his country had armed Islamists at the al-Omari mosque in Daraa (Truth Syria 2012). Many Syrian citizens back their government’s explanation, saying that the early protests were not linked to the armed attacks, which made use of Islamist slogans. The protest movement was effectively driven off the streets by the armed conflict (Eva Pal 2014; Haidar 2012). It has emerged that both sides played down soldier deaths in the early weeks, as ‘the government did not want to show they are weak and the opposition did not want to show they are armed’. Yet 18-19 soldiers were massacred in Daraa in late March and another 88 were killed across Syria in April (Narwani 2014).
A similarly polarised view developed over how to characterise the violence in Homs over 2011-2012, when the first groups calling themselves Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades attempted to hold parts of the old city. The Farouq and Khalid bin Walid brigades were the main occupying groups. Western sources characterised Farouq, if not exactly secular, then as ‘moderate’ Sunni Muslims. One US report, while recognising Islamist ‘jihadis’ amongst the fighters, claimed that ‘the vast majority of the [FSA] opposition fighters are legitimate nationalists … pious rather than Islamists and are not motivated by sectarianism’ (Benotman and Naseraldin 2012). The Washington-aligned International Crisis Group similarly noted ‘the presence of a strong Salafi strand among Syria’s rebels’, but spoke of ‘a moderate Islamic tradition’, suggesting that the Farouk and Khalid bin Walid brigades might be pious rather than Islamist (ICG 2012). The Wall Street Journal also called Farouk ‘pious Sunnis’ rather than Islamists (Malas 2013). The BBC called them ‘moderately Islamist’, suggesting they exaggerated their Islamism by dress and beards ‘to attract financial support from the Gulf’ (Marcus 2013).
Yet many Homs residents were terrified by the sectarian-genocidal slogans of ‘Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the tomb’ (Eretz Zen 2012; Adams 2012; Wakefield 2012). Reports of these slogans appeared in the US media as early as May 2011 (Blanford 2011). They did indeed drive Christians to Beirut. The Orthodox and Catholic churches blamed Farouq for the large scale ethnic cleansing of more than 50,000 Christians from Homs (CNA 2012). They began to impose an Islamic tax (Spencer 2012). A local analyst concluded most of Farouk were sectarian Salafis, armed and funded by Saudi Arabia; while ‘Khalid Ibn al-Walid remained loyal to and supported by the Muslim Brotherhood’ (Mortada 2012). Such ethnic cleansing would hardly have come from ‘moderate’ religious people, let alone a secular revolution.
The Houla massacre
After the Syrian Army had driven the FSA groups out of Homs, and on the eve of a UN Security Council meeting on Syria, a dreadful massacre of more than 100 civilians took place at the village of Houla, on the Taldou plains just north-west of Homs. The Houla massacre (25 May 2012) is important to ‘Responsibility to Protect’ discussions, because it formed the basis of a failed attempt to authorise UN intervention to protect civilians, based on the claim that the Syrian Government had massacred civilians. Evidence to back that claim, however, was hardly clear.
The governments of Britain, France and the USA immediately blamed the Syrian Government. In what has been called the ‘western and Arab media narrative’ the victims were killed by army artillery (Correggia, Embid, Hauben and Larson 2013). The Syrian Government, in turn, accused the foreign-backed terrorists, in particular the groups that had been driven out of Homs. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the army clashed with ‘hundreds’ of armed men who committed Friday’s massacre. The killers used knives, which they said was a ‘signature’ of Islamist militant attacks (Reuters 2012). The Government told the UN ‘the victims were reportedly killed by terrorists numbering between 600–800, who had entered Al-Houla previously from the villages of Al-Rastan, Sa’an, Bourj Qaei and Samae’leen, among other locations’. The General Command of the armed forces held an inquiry (HRC 2012a: 6).
Allegations of Islamist ‘false flag’ provocations had been made before. Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, the mother superior in charge of an ancient monastery in Qara, south of Homs, had observed the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Homs, and had grave suspicions about who was behind the killings at Houla. She had said publicly that Syrian Christians had been pressured to join FSA groups, had been used by the rebels as human shields and that Christian homes had been taken over by Sunnis. She denounced their ‘false flag’ crimes in 2011 (SANA 2011; AINA 2012), pointing out that the Catholic Media Centre had a list of names of hundreds of murder victims, many of whose images had been later used in [FSA] media setups (SANA 2011).
Western media reports, however, generally dismissed statements from Damascus. Several governments expelled Syrian diplomats, in moves designed to isolate the government. The UN Security Council said it:
‘condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings … in attacks that involved a series of Government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood … [and] also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range … [this] constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government’ (UNSC 2012). France’s representative at the UN, Martin Briens, said: ‘Tanks and artillery cannons from the government shelled residential areas killing civilians’ (RT 2012). Britain’s envoy Mark Lyall Grant said ‘there is not the slightest doubt that there was deliberate government shelling against a civilian neighbourhood’ (Cowan 2012).
These accusations were premature, betraying prejudice. Russia insisted on a UNSC briefing by UN Special Mission (UNSMIS) head, Norwegian General Robert Mood, who told them the victims included 49 children and 34 women, most of whom had been shot at close range or had their throats cut. Russian diplomat Aleksandr Pankin summarised: ‘very few of the people who died in Houla were killed by artillery shelling’ (RT 2012). From then, culprits in western media stories shifted to pro-government militia (shabiha). Britain’s Daily Telegraph blamed ‘Assad’s Death Squads’. The paper suggested a sectarian motive, from an opposition source: ‘They would fight for Bashar to the death. It is natural – they have to defend their sect’ (Alexander and Sherlock 2012).
The certainty of the British and French governments, and of the anti-government ‘activists’, was not evident in the statements of the head of UNSMIS. Mood’s group visited the massacre site and heard two distinct stories. The general’s public comments three weeks after the massacre deserve attention, given that the UN did not release the report to which he refers:
‘We have interviewed locals with one story and we have interviewed locals that have another story. The circumstances and … the facts related to the incident itself still remain unclear to us … we have sent [statements and witness interviews] as a report to UN headquarters New York … if we are asked [to assist] obviously we are on the ground and could help’ (Mood 2012).
This report was delivered to the UN Secretary General (UNSG 2012); yet it seems it was not received by the Security Council (Hauben 2012). Mood’s ambiguity may have been disconcerting for those wanting clear findings against the Syrian Government. On 1 June the Human Rights Council (three against and two abstentions) blamed the Houla killings on the Syrian Government (‘wanton killings … by pro-regime elements and a series of Government artillery and tank shellings’) before calling for a ‘comprehensive, independent and unfettered special inquiry’ (HRC 2012c). UNSMIS had its activities suspended and was disbanded in August.
Circumstances and timing were certainly important. As the Syrian Army drove Farouq from Homs and into surrounding towns, Syrians turned out for the 7 May National Assembly elections. Those sections of the opposition aligned to the FSA called for a boycott, and armed groups threatened to enforce this (al Akhbar 2012). In the event, the ruling Ba’ath party won 60% of the vote and their allied parties another 30%, though turnout was only 51% (Zarzar and al-Wahed 2012). There was reason to suspect enforcement of the threat, as reprisals against those who had participated and so lent legitimacy to the state and the government.
Yet that line of inquiry was not pursued by the second UN inquiry. With three of the UNSC permanent members openly backing regime change in Syria, the debate was heavily politicised. The Houla massacre inquiry was taken over by a Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, co-chaired by US diplomat Karen Koning AbuZayd (HRC 2012a; HRC 2012b). Appointing a US delegate was a mistake, on the part of the UN. Karen Koning Abu Zayd had worked for the UN for many years, but was explicitly listed as a USA delegate to the Commission. The US Government had, by this time, publicly blamed the Syrian Government for Houla, demanding that President Assad resign for ‘killing your fellow citizens’ (AP 2012) and, with Turkey, had ‘stepped up’ what it called ‘non-lethal aid’ to rebels in Syria (Barnard 2012). By any standard Washington was a belligerent party to the Syrian conflict. On principles of independence and avoiding conflicts of interest the Human Rights Council should not have incorporated a US representative.
Unlike UNSMIS, this Commission did not visit Syria. A review of evidence was carried out and eight additional interviews were conducted, at a distance from Syria. The interim report reflected some of the ambiguity of the UNSMIS team: ‘[We are] unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators at this time; nevertheless … forces loyal to the Government may have been responsible for many of the deaths’ (HRC 2012b: 10). This was an injudicious statement. The report blamed both government forces and anti-government groups for crimes of war, but came in more strongly against the Syrian government, relying on the formal duties of government to ‘prevent or punish’ violence, as well as not commit it (HRC 2012b: 23). That is, a ‘catch-all’ argument had it that the Government was ultimately responsible for all violence on its territory.
The Commission’s 15 August report firmed up against the Syrian Government, removing most of the earlier ambiguity, but without identifying perpetrators. They wrote:
‘The commission conducted eight additional interviews, including with six witnesses from the Taldou area, two of whom were survivors. They looked at a range of statements from ‘various sources’, including ‘international human rights NGOs’ (HRC 2012b: 64-65).
All statements, they said, were consistent with deaths being caused by government shelling and unidentified ‘shabiha’ forces. Even though they had heard evidence that the Al Sayed and Abdulrazzak families (the main groups of civilians killed) were government supporters, they concluded that the unidentified killers of those families ‘were aligned to the government’ (HRC 2012b: 67). They discounted evidence that FSA groups had committed the murders, claiming ‘apart from two witnesses in the Government report, no other account supported the Government’s version of events’ (HRC 2012b: 10). The Government ‘was responsible for the deaths of civilians as a result of shelling’, they said; while as regards the ‘deliberate killing of civilians, the Commission was unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators … [but] it considered that forces loyal to the Government were likely to have been responsible for many of the deaths’ (HRC 2012b: 10).
A prominent witness presented by the anti-government side was 11 year old boy Ali Al Sayed, who says many members of his family were murdered. In an online video little Ali says:
‘There were tanks in the street, they shot at us with machine guns … soldiers came out … they fired 5 bullets on the door lock … arrested my brother … [and] my uncle … then my mum screamed at them … they then shot her 5 times, they shot her in the head … then he went to my brother and shot him … some of them were dressed as military, some had regular clothes, had shaved heads and beards, shabiha’ (Marchfifteen 2012).
He pretended to be dead, and thus escaped being murdered. Later he saw news on state television of his uncles having been murdered. His story is not consistent in several respects (Larson in Correggia, Embid, Hauben and Larson 2013: 20-28) and, at the end, with the help of some leading questions, he gives what appears to be a tutored appeal for foreign military intervention:
‘I demand that the international community stop the killing in Syria and in Houla … we are being killed … the international community is sitting, just talking and not doing anything … the people must fight for us, do what they say and protect us’ (Marchfifteen 2012).
Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the boy’s story, Ali’s was hardly the only eye-witness account of the massacre. Further, it was quite false for the UN Commission of Inquiry to suggest that only ‘two witnesses … supported the Government’s version of events’. By that time there was public evidence from at least fifteen witnesses, broadly consistent with the account by the Syrian Government. Russian journalists tried to present their interview material to the Commission and apparently met with a lack of interest (Janssen 2012). The Commission claimed that the Russian reports ‘relied primarily on the same two witnesses as the Government’s report’ (HRC 2012b: 66). Yet a simple reading of a summary of evidence from the latter’s witnesses shows this to be false. Below is a summary of evidence from witnesses the UN Commission ignored. These accounts of ‘rebel’ culprits are broadly consistent with the account of the Government and often quite specific. Several gunmen are named.
First, the Syrian news agency reported two unidentified people who feared for their safety. The first said the gunmen were locals plus a larger group from other areas. The locals assembled after noon prayers before attacking check-points. They then selected pro-government people, those who participated in elections or ‘didn’t give the gunmen money’. One was Haitham al-Housan. The bodies shown on television were of ‘people murdered by terrorists along with the bodies of the gunmen killed in the initial conflict’ (SANA 2012). The second witness, a woman, saw the larger group attacking a check-point. They heard of people from Tal Dahab, Aqrab and al-Rastan. A man called Saiid Fayes al-Okesh fired a mortar and police responded; he was shot in the leg. Another gunmen was Haitham al-Hallaq, who led a group of about 200. The victims belonged to the al Sayed family, with Muawiya al Sayed ‘a police officer who didn’t defect’ and others related to Meshleb al Sayed, who ‘recently became Secretary of the Peoples’ Assembly’. Other targeted groups included four households of the Abdelrazzaq family (SANA 2012).
Syrian television news showed interviews with two distressed male witnesses. The first man said:
‘The terrorists are from this area and all the areas around … a huge number of them, hundreds. They started to use shells and RPGs … hitting the houses with guns, machine guns … They killed people in their houses … some bodies have been burned’ (Syria News 2012: at 6.47). The second man said: ‘A man, his brother, and nephew were killed in front of my sister … [another] was able to run away and hide … the United Nations, those observers, what are they doing while shells are hitting us?’ (Syria News 2012: at 7.35).
German journalist, Rainer Hermann, who speaks Arabic, interviewed witnesses from Houla within days of the massacre. His sources included Syrian opposition members who had rejected violence, whose names he withheld. They said Islamist rebels had attacked three army checkpoints. His sources told him:
‘The massacre took place after Friday prayers … dozens of soldiers and rebels were killed … [in fighting of] about 90 minutes … those killed were almost exclusively families of the Alawite or Shia minorities … [including] several dozen members of a family which had converted to Shia Islam in recent years … and the family of a Sunni member of parliament, because he was considered a collaborator … after the massacre, the perpetrators filmed their victims, presented them as Sunni victims and spread their videos’ (Hermann 2012).
Hermann gave names to the gang leaders:
‘more than 700 gunmen under the leadership of Abdurrazzaq Tlass and Yahya Yusuf [Farooq leaders] came in three groups from Rastan, Kafr Laha and Akraba and attacked three army checkpoints around Taldou. The numerically superior rebels and the soldiers fought bloody battles … the rebels, supported by the residents of Taldou, snuffed out the families … [who] had refused to join the opposition’ (LRC 2012).
German journalist Alfred Hackensberger spoke with a man who had been given refuge in the Qara monastery headed by Mother Agnes Mariam. This man called ‘Jibril’ said:
‘The fighting began around noon, when the rebels, coming from Ar-Rastan and Saan, attacked the checkpoints … the rebels went to the hospital and killed patients there … several teams targeted and went in selected houses and started to shoot all of the inhabitants. He knew the Sajid’s personally. ‘They were Sunni Muslims, like all of us’, he says. ‘They were killed by them because they have refused to join the revolution. They’ve even murdered a Member of Parliament who … had refused the boycott of the FSA’.
Asked about the ‘regime loyalists’ claims, Jibril responded derisively:
‘Nonsense … Houla is in rebel hands since December 2011 … the Army would like to reclaim Taldu, but it has not been done … many people know what really happened … who’s there … can only replay the version of the rebels. Everything else is certain death’ (Hackensberger 2012).
The Arabic speaking Dutch writer Martin Janssen constructed his view from three sources: the Catholic Fides news agency, information from refugees at the Qara monastery and the accounts of Russian journalists Musin and Kulygina. He questioned the shabiha story because many victims were Alawi, who are almost all pro-government. Fides had reported that ‘large groups of Syrian Alawites and Christians were fleeing to Lebanon to escape the violence of armed gangs’, after the events at Houla (Janssen 2012). The Qara monastery told him witnesses said the army was absent in the region, with ‘Rastan and Saan … under full control of the Free Syrian Army’. The armed groups attacked the al-Watani hospital and killed the guards. ‘Then they invaded the hospital where armed rebels killed all present and … put the hospital on fire’ (Janssen 2012). At Tal Daw, near Houla, armed groups murdered all the Alawite families. The report from the monastery described the area around Qusayr as ‘in turmoil’ and wracked by sectarian violence (Janssen 2012).
Those Russian journalists, Marat Musin and Olga Kulygina from the Abkhazian Network News Agency (ANNA-News) had a camera crew in Houla on 25 May and took a number of witness interviews. Their sources make it very clear the murderers were Islamist ‘rebels’. An old woman called
‘The grandmother of Al-Hula’ said: ‘Checkpoint positions were attacked … All the soldiers were killed, then they attacked our villages, torched a hospital … Bandits killed our pharmacist … [because] he had treated a wounded soldier Nobody but the army will help us … They say there have been airstrikes! Lies, lies, lies. Liars, all of them come from Ar-Rastan’ (ANNA 2012).
Taldou resident Syed Abdul Wahab, said: ‘The terrorists want to come here … to take power. We have always lived in peace. We cannot leave the house’. A local woman from Al-Gaunt, next to Al-Houla, said ‘Nine terrorists killed my relatives in the field. The bandits set fire to our houses and we fled … we have a martyr, who was burned alive. Why, by what law did they die? Is this Islam? Is this justice?’ (ANNA 2012).
Another woman from Taldou they call Arifah told them she listened to the radio chatter from the ‘bandits’, before the massacre (Musin 2012a). They began by firing at the main checkpoint while a group from the al Hassan clan, led by Nidal Bakkur, attacked a ‘second checkpoint’ outside the village. The bandits lost about 25 people but after about two hours they had taken over both check-points. ‘They then proceeded to murder the Al-Sayed family which lived across the street from the police station’. Three families including about 20 children were murdered, along with another 10 from the Abdul Razaq family. That afternoon Abdul Razak Tlas, leader of the Farouq Brigade, arrived with 250 men from Ar-Rastan, Aqraba and Farlaha (Musin 2012a). The city of Ar-Rastan had been abandoned by most civilians for some time, taken over by Islamists from Lebanon (Musin 2012b). Arifah said that by 8pm the murdered civilians and dead bandits had been taken to the mosque. They then filmed for the Qatari and Saudi television stations. On Saturday morning, when the UNSMIS observers arrived, ‘The fallen rebels involved in the action were presented as civilians, while the conquering rebels dressed in army uniforms posed as defectors. They were surrounded by their family members who told the story of a government attack with heavy shelling and posed as victim’s relatives, while the relatives of the real victims were nowhere to be seen’ (Musin 2012a).
Violence continued after the UNSMIS visit. Musin and Kulygina later interviewed two wounded soldiers, a wounded policeman and another resident, who gave more detail of ‘rebel’ sniper attacks and murders, and of the ‘rebel’ escorts set up for the UN observers. They continued to identify attackers and victims. A group from the Al Aksh clan had been firing mortars and RPGs at the checkpoints. All checkpoint prisoners were executed: a Sunni conscript had his throat cut, while Abdullah Shaui of Deir-Zor was burned alive (Maramus 2012; Musin 2012b). The police officer said ‘the attackers were from Ar-Rastan and Al-Hula. Insurgents control Taldou. They burned houses and killed people by the families, because they were loyal to the government’ (Musin 2012b). The resident saw the clashes from the roof of the police station. ‘Al Jazeera aired pictures and said that the Army committed the massacre at Al Hula … in fact, they [the gunmen] killed the civilians and children in Al-Hula. The bandits … steal everything … most of the fighters are from the city of Ar Rastan’ (Maramus 2012; Musin 2012b). The second UN inquiry ignored these 15 witnesses, who told of specific perpetrators with clear political motives. An outline of major reports and their associated evidence is below.
|TABLE Houla massacre (May 2012): significant reports|
|Source/report||Method and conclusion|
|Mother Agnes Mariam||FSA had previously attacked Christians and was engaged in ‘false flag’ attacks, falsely blamed on the government|
|Most western media reports||Massacre by ‘Assad’s death squads’|
|British and French government||Massacre resulted from Government shelling of civilian areas; later changed this to ‘regime thug’ attacks|
|UN Special Mission on Syria (UNSMIS), Gen. Robert Mood||Went to massacre site, heard stories that blamed both sides. Could not resolve the two versions.|
|UN HRC Commission of Inquiry||Interviews in Geneva, co-chaired by US diplomat; witnesses selection assisted by anti-government groups; Commission blames pro-government ‘thugs’ (shabiha)|
|FSA video, on Al Jazeera and elsewhere||Show young boy Ali al Sayed, he blames ‘shabiha’ in army clothes with shaved heads and beards.|
|Syrian Government, state news agencies and television||Four direct witnesses say attacks were by armed gangs, who killed security and targeted pro-government families|
|German journalist Alfred HACKENSBERGER||Interviews refugee ‘Jibril’ at Qara monastery – massacre carried out by FSA gangs on pro-government families|
|German journalist Rainer HERMANN||Interviews anti-violence opposition people – they say local gangs and FSA killed pro-government families|
|Dutch Journalist Martin JANSSEN||Notes large outflow of Christian and Alawi refugees from Houla; refugees at Qara blame FSA gangs|
|Russian journalists Marat MUSIN and Olga KULYGINA||Eight witnesses blame FSA-linked anti-government gangs, victims pro-government families|
|Correggia, Embid, Hauben and Larson||Critical review of evidence and UN reports – say the Commission report is not credible.|
Dissent at the UN
The partisan report clearly influenced UN discussions. Although the HRC passed a motion with a strong majority, condemning the Syrian Government, the dissenting comments were significant. Russian representative Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischv (UNTV 2012: 7.00 to 8.10) said
‘We cannot agree with the one-sided conclusions put out in the resolution concerning the Commission on the Houla tragedy … We believe that the question of guilt is still open. An investigation should be carried out thoroughly … unfortunately some states are de facto encouraging terrorism in Syria therefore we have no doubt that the episode in Houla has definitely been whipped up in the media and has been used to carry out force against this country. The delegate from China (UNTV 2012: 13.25 to 15.50) also flagged that country’s intention to vote against the resolution, as there was a need ‘for a political solution … [and an] immediate end to violence … putting pressure on one party for the conflict will not help solve the problem’. The Cuban delegate (UNTV 2012: 16.05 to 18.50) said ‘there are parties that are interested in not fostering the path of dialogue and understanding … [some saying clearly they want] regime change, and even promoting the idea of military intervention with the use of force to impose on the Syrian people decisions that are being taken outside the country’. The Indian delegate (UNTV 2012: 19.00-21.30), who abstained, said India had given ‘unqualified support to the joint missions’ but urged the Human Rights Council to ‘always act with complete impartiality, in order to maintain its credibility and retain the trust and confidence of all … [there is a need for] a balanced and impartial resolution that can help start a meaningful political process in Syria’
The Syrian delegation (UNTC 2012: 24.33-35.30) came out hardest against the resolution, saying that the Commission of Inquiry ‘didn’t even visit Syria’ and had ignored the Syrian inquiry. Referring to some ‘Arab co-sponsors’ Syria said they had no right to ‘give advice’ because they were ‘directly involved in the killings of Syrian people, and criminals cannot be judges’, imposing sanctions and then ‘shedding tears about the humanitarian situation’. The refusal to condemn terrorism in Syrian reflected badly on the Council. Nevertheless, the big powers had the numbers, with 41 voting in favour, three against and three abstentions. The resolution was adopted but no UNSC action was possible because of opposition from two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China.
The unsatisfactory UN process does not negate the fact that strong prima facie evidence emerged against particular groups and individuals. Witnesses identified as perpetrators four local gunmen (Haitham al-Housan, Saiid Fayes al-Okesh, Haitham al-Hallq and Nidal Bakkur) along with groups from two clans (the al Hassan and the al-Aksh), plus a large Farouq group led by Abdurrazzaq Tlass and Yahya Yusuf. Their motive was to punish pro-government villagers, in particular the al-Sayed and Abdulrazzak families, then to set up a scene to falsely blame the government for their own crimes. The Houla massacre did not result in a Libyan-styled intervention, but false accusations afforded temporary impunity to the killers and created a great risk that military intervention could have been set in play.
Houla set the tone for a series of similar ‘false flag’ massacres. When the August 2012 massacre of 245 people in Daraya (Damascus) came to light, western media reports quickly suggested that ‘Assad’s army has committed [another] massacre’ (Oweis 2012). However that story was contradicted by British journalist Robert Fisk, who observed that the FSA had slaughtered kidnapped civilian and off-duty soldier hostages after a failed prisoner swap (Fisk 2012). Similarly, the 10 December 2012 massacre of 120 to 150 villagers in Aqrab (less than 15 kilometres from Houla, and also at that time under ‘rebel’ control) was also blamed by ‘activists’ on the Syrian Government. The New York Times suggested ‘members of Assad’s sect’ were responsible (Stack and Mourtada 2012). In fact, as British journalist Alex Thompson (2012b) later reported, from the tightly corroborated evidence of survivors, the FSA (including foreign fighters) had held 500 Alawi villagers for nine days, murdering many of them as the army closed in and the FSA fled. In this case those of ‘Assad’s sect’ were the victims, just as the victims at Houla had been mostly government supporters and their families.
The Houla massacre illustrates great dangers in the practice of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, when the big powers have proxy armies in the field. The idea that almost any sort of atrocity could be blamed on the Syrian Government, with little fear of contradiction in the western media, must have played heavily on the minds of Islamist armed groups. Farouq in particular was very media savvy, regularly producing videos for the television networks of Qatar (Al Jazeera) and Saudi Arabia (Al Arabiya). Up against a superior national army, which was not disintegrating along sectarian lines, Farouq and the others were in desperate need of military backing. Inflaming moral outrage against the Syrian Government just might bring in NATO air power, as it had in Libya. In the meantime, they could carry out major crimes with impunity.
The failure of UN processes to recognise the UN’s own role, in fomenting both impunity and escalation of the violence, further discredited the ‘no fly zone’ idea, which had been cynically exploited in the Libyan intervention. After Houla, while the propaganda war continued, there was no real hope of Security Council authorised intervention in Syria. The next major incident, involving the use of chemical weapons in ‘rebel’ occupied East Ghouta, more than a year later, would have as its reference point a unilateral ‘red line’ decree by Washington. Houla in many respects marked the collapse of UN-sanctioned ‘official truth’ in Syria.
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AP (2012) ‘’Stop killing your fellow citizens or you will face consequences’: Clinton issues warning to Syrian regime as she says Assad must go’, Associated Press, Daily Mail UK, 2 April, online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2123853/Syria-Hillary-Clinton-says-Assad-go.html
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Benotman, Noman and Emad Naseraldin (2012) ‘The Jihadist Network in the Syrian Revolution, A Strategic Briefing’, Quilliam Institute, 20 September, online: http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/press-releases/quilliam-releases-concept-paper-the-jihadist-network-in-the-syrian-revolution/
Blanford, Nicholas (2011) ‘Assad regime may be gaining upper hand in Syria’, Christian Science Monitor, 13 May, online: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0513/Assad-regime-may-be-gaining-upper-hand-in-Syria
CNA (2012) ‘Syrian violence drives 50,000 Christians from homes’, Catholic News Agency, online: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/syrian-violence-drives-50000-christians-from-homes/
Correggia, Marinella; Alfredo Embid, Ronda Hauben, Adam Larson (2013) ‘Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre of May 2012’, CIWCL, May 15, online: http://ciwclibya.org/reports/realtruthhoula.html
Cowan, Jane (2012) ‘UN Security Council condemns Syrian regime’, ABC, 28 May, online: http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3512153.htm
Eretz Zen (2012) ‘Rhetoric of Syrian protesters and to whom their allegiance goes’, YouTube, 17 June, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6zGwjj0lDc
Eva Pal (2014) ‘Talk with Lilly Martin and Steven Sahiounie, part 1’, YouTube, May 10, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc2HRk42O-w
Fisk, Robert (2012) ‘Inside Daraya – how a failed prisoner swap turned into a massacre’, 29 August:
Hackensberger, Alfred (2012) ‘In Syrien gibt es mehr als nur eine Wahrheit’, Berliner Morgenpost, 23 June, online: http://www.morgenpost.de/politik/ausland/article107255456/In-Syrien-gibt-es-mehr-als-nur-eine-Wahrheit.html
Haidar, Ali (2012) Syria’s Ali Haidar: Both Sides Have Extremists’, Al Akhbar, 13 July, online: http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/9716
Hauben, Ronda (2012) ‘Why is the UNSMIS Houla Report Missing?’, 28 November, Netizenblog, online: http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2012/11/28/why-is-unsmis-report-missing/
Hauben, Ronda (2013) ‘Why is the UNSMIS Houla Report Missing?’ in Correggia, Marinella; Alfredo Embid, Ronda Hauben, Adam Larson (2013) ‘Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre of May 2012’, CIWCL, May 15, online: http://ciwclibya.org/reports/realtruthhoula.html
Hermann, Rainer (2012) ‘Abermals Massaker in Syrien’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 June, online: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html
HRC (2012a) ‘Oral Update of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic’, Human Rights Commission, 26 June, online: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/OralUpdateJune2012.pdf
HRC (2012b) ‘Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic’, Human Rights Commission 16 August, online: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-50_en.pdf
HRC (2012c) ‘The deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent killings in El-Houleh’, Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council S-19/1, Human Rights Council, United Nations, 4 June, online: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/SpecialSession/Session19/A-HRC-RES-S-19-1_en.pdf
Janssen, Martin (2012) ‘De verschrikkingen van Houla’, 10 June, Mediawerkgroep Syrië, online: http://mediawerkgroepsyrie.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/de-verschrikkingen-van-houla/
LRC (2012) ‘Germany’s FAZ paper Follow-up on Houla Hoax’, The LRC Blog [translation of the FAZ article from German], 16 June, online: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/113737.html
Marchfifteen (2012) 11-year-old Houla Massacre Survivor’, marchfifteen’s YouTube channel, 28 may, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POEwEiqTavA
Malas, Nour (2013) ‘As Syrian Islamists Gain, It’s Rebel Against Rebel’, Wall Street Journal, 29 may, online: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323975004578499100684326558.html
Marcus, Jonathan (2013) Gruesome Syria video pinpoints West’s dilemma, BBC, 14 May, online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22521161
Mood, Robert (2012) ‘Houla massacre, 2 versions – UNSMIS Robert Mood, June 15’, Adam Larson YouTube site, 16 September, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ViUVJYGT_8
Mortada, Radwan (2012) ‘Syria Alternatives (II): no homegrown solutions’, Al Akhbar, 13 June, online: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/syria-alternatives-ii-no-homegrown-solutions
Musin, Marat (2012a) ‘Al Hula Witness’, Sabina Zaher You Tube, 31 May, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD0PA0BxNAQ
Musin, Marat (2012b) ‘THE HOULA MASSACRE: Opposition Terrorists “Killed Families Loyal to the Government’, Global Research, 1 June, online:
Maramus (2012) ‘ANNA ВИДЕО : материалы собственного расследования по Аль Хула’, [soldier and police interviews] May 30, online: http://maramus.livejournal.com/86539.html ; VIDEO: http://video.yandex.ru/users/news-anna2012/view/24/.]
Narwani, Sharmine (2014) ‘Syria: the hidden massacre’, RT, 7 May, online: http://rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011/
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Reuters (2011) ‘Syria says seizes weapons smuggled from Iraq’, 11 March, online: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/11/us-syria-iraq-idUSTRE72A3MI20110311
Reuters (2012) ‘Syrian gov’t: Islamists behind Houla massacre’, Jerusalem Post, 28 May, online: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Syrian-govt-Islamists-behind-Houla-massacre
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Wakefield, Mary (2012) ‘Die Slowly Christian Dog’, The Spectator, 27 October, online: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8708121/die-slowly-christian-dog/
Zarzar, Anas and Tareq Abd al-Wahed (2012) ‘Syria’s New Parliament: From Baath to Baath’, Al Akhbar, 16 May, online: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/syria%E2%80%99s-new-parliament-baath-baath
The Washington Post has this dramatic headline: Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the ocean with potentially dire consequences.
A new paper has been published that has the media talking about The Day After Tomorrow [link]. What is this new paper?
Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation
Stefan Rahmstorf, Jason E. Box, Georg Feulner, Michael E. Mann, Alexander Robinson, Scott Rutherford & Erik J. Schaffernicht
Abstract. Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC.
Stefan Rahmstorf has a post at RealClimate Whats going on in the North Atlantic? Excerpt:
The North Atlantic between Newfoundland and Ireland is practically the only region of the world that has defied global warming and even cooled. Last winter there even was the coldest on record – while globally it was the hottest on record. Our recent study (Rahmstorf et al. 2015) attributes this to a weakening of the Gulf Stream System, which is apparently unique in the last thousand years.
Climate models have long predicted such a slowdown – both the current 5th and the previous 4th IPCC report call a slowdown in this century “very likely”, which means at least 90% probability. When emissions continue unabated (RCP8.5 scenario), the IPCC expects 12% to 54% decline by 2100. But the actual past evolution of the flow is difficult to reconstruct owing to the scarcity of direct measurements.
What is new is that we have used proxy reconstructions of large-scale surface temperature (Mann et al, 2009) previously published by one of us that extend back to 900 AD to estimate the circulation (AMOC) intensity over the entire last 1100 years. This shows that despite the substantial uncertainties in the proxy reconstruction, the weakness of the flow after 1975 is unique in more than a thousand years, with at least 99 per cent probability. This strongly suggests that the weak overturning is not due to natural variability but rather a result of global warming.
Well, if there is anything I distrust more than climate model simulations of decadal to millennial scale ocean circulations and internal variability, it is Mannian proxy analysis of same. It seems like strip bark bristlecones and Tiljander sediments can tell us about Gulf Stream flow rates, as well as global temperatures. Remarkable.
So what do the actual ocean observations have to say? Anthony Watts has an extensive critique of the paper, pointing to a 2014 paper by oceanographer Thomas Rossby: On the long-term stability of Gulf Stream transport based on 20 years of direct measurements. The title pretty much speaks for itself, but Rossby had this to say in an interview:
“The ADCP measures currents at very high accuracy, and so through the repeat measurements we take year after year, we have a very powerful tool by which to monitor the strength of the current,” said Rossby. “There are variations of the current over time that are natural — and yes, we need to understand these better — but we find absolutely no evidence that suggests that the Gulf Stream is slowing down.”
In 2010, NASA issued a press release NASA Study Finds Atlantic Conveyor Belt Not Slowing, citing a paper published by Josh Willis of JPL using measurements from ocean-observing satellites and profiling floats. Punchline:
For now, however, there are no signs of a slowdown in the circulation. “The changes we’re seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle,” said Willis. “The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling.”
Pierre Gosselin cites additional critiques from German scientists. Notably:
Climate scientist Martin Visbeck of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel sees Rahmstorf’s assertion of the results critically: ‘The study’s focus on the sub-polar part of the Atlantic and the spectral analysis are interesting,’ he says. But there are other AMOC assessments that point to a completely other development. The paper does not offer any strong indication of the development of the AMOC during the past fifty years.”
So, who you gonna believe? Climate models and Mannian proxies, or direct and satellite observations of ocean circulation?
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
What is going on the high latitudes of the North Atlantic can’t be understood without the context of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. If you are unfamiliar with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), see this summary. For reference, the AMO figures prominently in the stadium wave. While the method to define the AMO is still debated, here I show the canonical analyses from NOAA.
The monthly values of the AMO are shown below.
A blow up of the more recent data (through Dec 2014) is shown below:
While the AMO index shows substantial variability, there are multi-decadal periods when the index is predominantly positive (warm) and negative (cool). To the extend that past behavior is any guide to the future, the current warm phase is expected to transition to the cool phase sometime in the 2020’s. While the the 1995 transition was sharp, the transition to the next cool phase might be sharp, or it might ‘flicker’ for a few years or even a decade. We’ll have to see how this plays out.
There is some evidence that the warm phase of the AMO has peaked circa 2007, see the upper ocean heat content data shown below.
What we are seeing in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic is natural variability, predominantly associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Based upon observational analyses, there is no sign of a slowdown in the Gulf Stream or the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
Now, I am very interested in the AMO, since it strongly influences Atlantic hurricanes, Arctic sea ice, and Greenland climate. We are already seeing a recovery of the Atlantic sector of the Arctic sea ice, and some hints of cooling in Greenland.
With regards to Atlantic hurricanes, Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach are looking at a new definition of the AMO that they feel relates better to Atlantic hurricane activity [link], and they are seeing a transition to negative values.
And finally, the AMO does not act in isolation (e.g. the stadium wave); there are very interesting things going on in the Pacific also – perhaps a topic for a future post.
A 36-year veteran of America’s Intelligence Community, William Binney resigned from his position as Director for Global Communications Intelligence (COMINT) at the National Security Agency (NSA) and blew the whistle, after discovering that his efforts to protect the privacy and security of Americans were being undermined by those above him in the chain of command.
The NSA data-monitoring program which Binney and his team had developed — codenamed ThinThread — was being aimed not at foreign targets as intended, but at Americans (codenamed as Stellar Wind); destroying privacy here and around the world. Binney voices his call to action for the billions of individuals whose rights are currently being violated.
William Binney speaks out in this feature-length interview with Tragedy and Hope’s Richard Grove, focused on the topic of the ever-growing Surveillance State in America.
Marc Perkel at Dvorak Uncensored wrote that Clinton used a commercial spam filtering service, MxLogic, now owned by McAfee, to monitor emails coming into her account. To be able to filter out spam, MxLogic had to be able to read the emails. Thus, anyone with access to MxLogic’s system, which could include someone from outside the company, could read emails meant for Clinton. Those emails would include communications coming from the White House and foreign governments.
“So – for example – if I’m a Russian spy, ISIS, North Korea, or Fox News, or a 14-year-old hacker, all I have to do is bribe someone at McAfee or hack their work login, and they get to read all the email of the Secretary of State,” Perkel wrote.
Clinton even has web mail available, so that anyone with internet access can try hacking into her account.
Another potential problem uncovered by Perkel involves Clinton’s email server itself. Perkel was able to run a security test on the server and it came back with a “B” grade, which isn’t what one wants to see when dealing with top-secret communications.
“The system… had numerous safeguards,” Clinton said in her recent press conference. “It was on property guarded by the Secret Service and there were no security breaches. So I think that the use of that server… certainly proved to be effective and secure.” But Perkel begs to disagree. He said it’s likely the server is in fact not in Clinton’s house or office, which are guarded by the Secret Service, but rather in a more vulnerable commercial data center.
To Learn More:
Spam Filtering Service Had Access to Clinton Classified Emails (by Marc Perkel, Dvorak Uncensored )
Did Spam Filtering Service Have Full Access to Clinton Emails (Peter Van Buren, Ghosts of Tom Joad )
Over the past several years mainstream news outlets have conveyed a litany of cyber doomsday scenarios on behalf of ostensibly credible public officials. Breathless intimations of the End Times. The stuff of Hollywood screenplays. However a recent statement by the U.S. intelligence community pours a bucket of cold water over all of this. Yes, Virginia, It turns out that all the talk of cyber Armageddon was a load of bunkum. An elaborate propaganda campaign which only serves as a pretext to sacrifice our civil liberties and channel an ocean of cash to the defense industry.
Looking back the parade of scare stories is hard to miss. For example, in late 2012 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” Former White House cybersecurity official Paul B. Kurtz likewise spoke of a threat which he referred to as a “cyber Katrina.” Former NSA director Mike McConnell claimed that a veritable Cyberwar was on and chided the public “are we going to wait for the cyber equivalent of the collapse of the World Trade Centers?” Yet another NSA director, Keith Alexander, described cyberattacks as constituting “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” And finally, Vanity Fair magazine published a hyperbolic article entitled “A Declaration of Cyberwar” wherein the NSA’s Stuxnet attack against Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities was likened to a cyber “Hiroshima.”
Yet the 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. intelligence community submitted recently to the Senate Armed Services Committee has explicitly conceded that the risk of “cyber Armageddon” is at best “remote.” In other words, it’s entirely safe to ignore the hyperbolic bluster of the Cult of Cyberwar. Despite what we’ve been told the Emperor is naked.
What society has witnessed is what’s known in the public relations business as threat inflation. It’s a messaging tool that’s grounded in human emotion. Faced with ominous prophecies by trusted public servants the average person seldom pauses to consider the likelihood of ulterior motives or perform a formal quantitative risk assessment. Most people tacitly cede to the speakers’ authority —given that most speakers are, or were, high-ranking officials— and accept their graphic worst-case scenarios at face value.
The American public saw threat inflation back in the 1950s when American leadership hyperventilated over the imaginary Missile Gap. We saw it once again before the invasion of Iraq when President Bush spoke of a nuclear “smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” And after reading through the various cyber metaphors described earlier it’s hard not to recognize the fingerprints of threat inflation at work.
The goal of threat inflation is to stir up anxiety, to foment a profound sense of apprehension so that the public is receptive to marketing pitches emerging from the defense industry. Studies conducted by accredited research psychologists demonstrate that anxious people will choose to be safe rather than sorry. In the throes of an alleged crisis, anxious people aren’t necessarily particular about the solution as long as it’s presented as a remedial measure; they don’t care much about the ultimate cost or the civil liberties they relinquish. They’re willing to pay a steep price to feel safe again.
So it is that American intelligence services have raised a global panopticon and in doing so engaged in clandestine subversion programs that span entire sectors of the economy. Speaking to the public our leaders justify mass surveillance in terms of protecting the American public against terrorists. Speaking to each other intelligence officers disparage iPhone users as ‘zombies’ who pay for their own monitoring. This sharp contrast underscores an insight provided by whistleblower Ed Snowden in an open letter to Brazil. In particular Snowden stated that “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”
This process, of capitalizing on deftly manufactured emotional responses, has been called securitization and it puts the economic and political imperatives of corporate interests before our own. An allegedly existential threat like cyber Armageddon can presumably justify any cost in the throes of a crisis mentality. This is exactly what powerful groups are betting on.
But just because there are several types of insurance doesn’t mean consumers should go out and buy all of them. Prudent buyers won’t pay any price to be safe, they purchase coverage strategically. There are prices that clear-headed people won’t pay. Something to remember when the term “national security” appears in public debate.
Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.
Ukraine’s Minister of Information Policy announced that he seeks eight to 15 year prison terms for employees of Donetsk and Luhansk television stations.
Ukraine’s Minister of Information Policy, Yuri Stets, said in an interview to Radio Liberty that he wants people who work for local television in Donetsk and Luhansk to serve eight to 15 years in prison.
“I think that it’s effective enough for law enforcement to work there so that people who worked for the channels of the so-called LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] and DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] got the following sentences: eight to 15 years.”
In the same interview, Stets says that he has been able to convince Europeans that his ministry will not be a “Ministry of Censorship.” In addition, he announced that a new radio station aimed at Crimea will be launched sometime next week.
The Ministry of Information Policy remains the least-popular ministry in Ukraine according to opinion polls, and is often referred to as the “Ministry of Truth” for its contradictory aims, referencing George Orwell’s novel ‘1984.’ On Thursday, the ministry took control of a financial education television channel, intending to launch a new international broadcaster, Ukraine Tomorrow.
In February, the Ministry of Information Policy launched the “Ukrainian Information Army,” a project which intended to start arguments in comment sections of Russian news websites to shift public opinion. The project failed after warriors failed to convince Russians that Ukraine’s declining standard of living is the fault of Russia and personally Putin, and has since become a mailing list of links to share on social media.
This summer will mark the ninth anniversary of the Journal of 9/11 Studies. In that time, my co-editors and I have published over 150 peer-reviewed articles and letters addressing various aspects of the 9/11 crimes. Although it’s been hard, thankless work at times, the job of co-editor has also been rewarding and I’ve learned a great deal.
Through publishing articles in mainstream journals, I’ve learned that our peer-review process is at least as rigorous as that of others. At our Journal, submissions often fail to pass the editor’s initial assessment and are never reviewed. Of those remaining, dozens have failed to make it through the peer-review process to become published. It’s definitely a disappointment when that happens but it’s important that whatever we publish lives up to certain standards. The end result is a treasure-trove of reliable research, freely available on the web.
For example, here are six articles and two letters that should be widely read.
Intersecting Facts and Theories on 9/11, by Joseph P. Firmage
This short article was published in August 2006. It presents a comparison of competing theories for what happened on 9/11 with respect to known facts. The comparison clearly shows that the “create a new reality” theory, in which U.S. officials were involved in the attacks, is by far more sensible than other possibilities.
118 Witnesses: The Firefighter’s Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers, by Graeme MacQueen
This highly influential article focuses on eyewitness testimonies to the World Trade Center (WTC) destruction. The testimonies were collected by New York City officials after 9/11 and then kept secret for nearly four years. Professor MacQueen delves into these explosive eyewitness accounts in a way that makes clear why officials did not want the public to see them.
Extremely high temperatures during the World Trade Center destruction, by Steven E. Jones, et.al
This lucid article from January 2008 was a breakthrough in 9/11 research. Establishing the WTC thermite theory on a firm grounding of experimental evidence, it set the stage for a series of scientific articles that were published in multiple journals. In the future, this breakthrough article may be seen as one of the greatest contributions to forensic science.
Obstacles to Persuasion: Lessons from the Classroom, by Mark Vorobej
This article from December 2008 is from a professor of philosophy who examined the responses of university students as they were exposed to alternative explanations for 9/11. In a five-week segment of his course on Argumentation Theory, Professor Vorobej was able to lead his students to objectively examine 9/11 from different perspectives while fostering further, constructive debate.
Falsifiability and the NIST WTC Report: A Study in Theoretical Adequacy, by Anonymous and F. Legge
In March 2010, we published this examination of the scientific principle of falsifiability in light of U.S. government reports on the WTC destruction. This often-overlooked article is well constructed and provides detail on why the official reports failed to meet some of the most critical requirements of the scientific method.
Letter on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, by Lorie Van Auken
A series of nine letters was published on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The letters came from leading researchers, activists, and legal experts around the world. Perhaps the most compelling contribution was that of Lorie Van Auken, whose husband Kenneth was killed in the north tower on 9/11.
Letter to the Royal Society from Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, from the Board of Directors, AE911Truth
In June 2012, we published a letter that was sent from the board of directors of AE911Truth to Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society in England. The letter emphasized how the official account for what happened at the WTC was in direct contradiction to the laws of motion described by one of the Royal Society’s most famous members—Sir Isaac Newton.
The “Strategy of Tension” in the Cold War Period, by Daniele Ganser
In May 2014, Swiss historian Daniele Ganser contributed this updated version of a previously published article. Dr. Ganser’s article provides important historical perspective for considering what happened on 9/11. His conclusion, based on historical fact, is that objections to U.S. government or military involvement in 9/11 are based on unsupportable, a priori arguments.
These eight papers are just a sampling of the wide-range of peer-reviewed research and commentary available at the Journal of 9/11 Studies. If you want to learn more about that fateful day through an evidence-based approach, the Journal is a great resource. For anyone interested in contributing, we continue to seek out new perspectives that have not yet been expressed. Guidelines for submission are published at the website.
One of the most interesting areas of conspiracy theory is the possibility of the planting of false information by government authorities, for motives including confusing or embarrassing the conspiracy theorists, promoting government-sponsored conspiracy theories, or entrapment.
“Is Matt DeHart Being Prosecuted Because FBI Investigated CIA for the Anthrax Leak?”:
“. . . there’s something odd about how this was allegedly leaked.
According to Buzzfeed, the anthrax investigation came in one unencrypted folder with the ag document and a document on drone targeting the source of which he thinks he knows (it would like have been a former colleague from the ANG).
How would it ever be possible that the same person would have access to all three of those things? While it’s possible the ag admission ended up in the government, even a DOJ investigation into such an admission would be in a different place than the FBI anthrax investigation, and both should be inaccessible to the ANG people working on SIPRNet.
That is, this feels like the Laptop of Death, which included all the documents you’d want to argue that Iran had an active and advanced nuclear weapons program, but which almost certainly would never all end up on the same laptop at the same time.
And, given DeHart’s belief reported elsewhere this was destined for WikiLeaks, I can’t help but remember the Defense Intelligence Agency report which noted that WikiLeaks might be susceptible to disinformation (not to mention the HB Gary plot to discredit WikiLeaks, but that came later).
This raises the possibility that the Wikileaks.org Web site could be used to post fabricated information; to post misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda; or to conduct perception management and influence operations designed to convey a negative message to those who view or retrieve information from the Web site
That is, given how unlikely it would be to find these juicy subjects all together in one folder, I do wonder whether they’re all authentic (though DeHart would presumably be able to assess the authenticity of the drone targeting documents).”
Unlike World Hero Guccifer, DeHart didn’t go looking for this stuff – it just appeared one day on his secret server. There is an explanation in the BuzzFeed article for why he wasn’t suspicious at the combination of information:
“Matt says he thought of his fellow airmen, some of whom knew about the Shell. “I’m not going to say who I think it was, but there was a lot of dissatisfaction in my unit about cooperating with the CIA,” he says. Intelligence analysts with the proper clearance (such as Manning and others) had access to a deep trove of sensitive data on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, the classified computer network used by both the Defense and State departments.”
Thus, this could be:
- a completely legitimate and accurate compilation of various files assembled by someone with enough of a security clearance – and the Manning case shows that the complexities of the American classification system, a symptom of trying to juggle so many secrets while allowing access to the secrets by some in government, is a mess;
- a mix of true and false data, either by a mistake by the leaker, or an intentional government trick; or
- the planting of completely false information by the government or some private trickster.
I wouldn’t put the CIA high on the list of suspects for the anthrax attacks, but we know it is one of the jobs of the CIA to take the fall for various discovered wrongdoings by other parts of the American government (and never forget the obvious Zionist component to the anthrax conspiracy).
There is something deeply mendacious and cowardly about this ritual leaking by European diplomats of their annual report on Jerusalem. This year they’ve chosen to deposit the “confidential” report in the hands of the Guardian.
Obviously, the Europeans – and Americans – want this information about how angry they are with Israel disseminated as widely as possible in the wake of Netanyahu’s election win. “We’re mad and we’re not going to take it any more!” they shout – yet again, as they have done over the past four or five years.
As ever, the report is being described as “hard-hitting”; as ever, it threatens penalties against Israel; and as ever, it signifies nothing.
This is paltry theatre designed to persuade us – people with consciences – that our representatives care and that they are planning – at some point – to do something. But what it really indicates is that that something is going to amount to nothing more than empty threats. These are the same threats they have been making for more than a decade. And even were Europe actually to carry them out, they would have almost no impact on Israel.
Here’s what these “threats” consist of:
Known Jewish terrorists may face “restrictions” on entering Europe. (One would have hoped such “restrictions” were already in place.)
Europe may give its consumers more information about whether they are being misled into buying products from illegal settlements. (Such products should not even be available in Europe.)
And efforts will be made to “raise awareness” among European companies that it could be bad for business to be associated with the settlements. (And yet, according to free-market ideology, market forces ought to be enough to dissuade most companies from such associations – after all, they are supposed to want to maximise profits.)
In short, this list of potential “sanctions” is complete hot air. It’s zilch. And anyone claiming otherwise, including the Guardian, is simply conspiring in this diplomatic charade.
I have sometimes noted that in the current “four legs good, two legs bad” discourse about Venezuela, journalists can write almost anything about the country and no one will question it – so long as it is something negative. On Saturday, March 13, the Wall Street Journal published this chart on its front page in the print edition, below, and claimed health care spending as a percent of economic output was “lower in Venezuela than in all other major economies in Latin America.” The chart shows Venezuela’s health care spending at 1.6 percent of GDP.
The chart and text don’t say it, but they are referring to public (i.e., government) spending on health care, which one can find by looking at the original data from the World Health Organization. When I read this, I thought, this can’t be true: The Venezuelan government spends about the same percentage of GDP on health care as Haiti? The lowest of 19 countries in the hemisphere? Less than some of the poorer countries in Sub-Saharan Africa? And these numbers are for 2012, when the economy was booming (5.7 percent real GDP growth), Venezuelan oil was at 103 dollars per barrel, and the government built more than 200,000 homes. They had no money for health care?
This should have set off some alarm bells at the WSJ, if any editors were paying attention. This number is not plausible because it is wrong. When the government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela decided to make health care a priority after getting control over the national oil industry in 2003, it was unable to accomplish very much by going through the health ministry and the public hospitals – running into various bureaucratic and political obstacles. So it created Misión Barrio Adentro, a system of health clinics that served people in both urban and rural areas where many did not previously have access to health care.
The short story is that the numbers used by the WSJ apparently didn’t include most of Venezuela’s health care spending, since it has gone through the misiones. In 2012, the national oil company contributed $5.5 billion for Misión Barrio Adentro. Also, the government of Venezuela has an actual agreement with Cuba, which provides specifically for the supply medical care through Misión Barrio Adentro in exchange for 98,000 barrels of oil per day, which Venezuela has provided. The value of that oil in 2012 was $3.44 billion. The medical services include not only 40,000 doctors but also medical equipment, medicines, and other health care services.
If we add in these expenses, and use the IMF’s 2012 exchange rate to convert to domestic currency, this adds another 3 percent of GDP to the government’s health care spending.
This would bring Venezuela’s health care spending to 4.6 percent of GDP. In the above chart, that would move Venezuela from 19th to 7th place among the 19 countries shown. And this figure does not include all of Venezuela’s government health care spending.
(Note: the WSJ article also claims that “the share of state spending on health, at 6%” was also “lower in Venezuela than in all other major economies in Latin America.” This is also false, for the same reasons discussed above.)